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The teams at Axians Portugal used artificial intelligence technologies to develop the SARA chatbot platform, which is already up and running in Belgium and will soon be operating across Europe as a whole. Voice technology is bringing major changes in marketing.

Chatbots, the conversational tools used by customer relations departments, have become widespread in recent years. Progress in artificial intelligence is now transforming these tools into “voicebots”, giving them substantial added value. One example is SARA, the platform developed by Axians Portugal. The teams of the VINCI Energies brand specialising in the new communication technologies developed SARA using artificial intelligence tools called NLP (Natural Language Processing).

“To improve on interactive voice servers, the game changer is artificial intelligence”

“SARA was developed to create a multi-channel integration platform, remove the complexity of managing multiple bots separately, and create a standard development practice for multiple partners. We used Building Blocks with an Infrastructure as Code approach (the process of managing and provisioning applications through machine-readable definition files), cognitive services (simulation of human thought processes in a computer model), and an AI engine to enable the chatbot to generate the conversational Intelligence that powers SARA’s “intelligence”. The platform is prepared to integrate and is trained with enterprise systems like ERP and CRM and 3rd party solutions like contact centres and other bots,” says José Marouço, Cloud Business Development Manager at Axians Portugal.

SARA is a multi-channel (Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype) tool that is also a voicebot able to answer customer requests by voice. When the conversational assistant does not know the answer, it forwards the request to a human contact.

The first application was developed for a Belgian insurance company, Ageas, which operates in 22 countries. “They tested the chatbot here in Portugal. The platform was designed to use natural language via voice and not just text, so as to better understand customer requests,” says José Marouço.

Added value

A quarter of the customer questions involve green automobile insurance cards. With this technology, Ageas can relieve its employees of low-value-added tasks, such as questions about green cards, and instead assign them to work on managing marketing campaigns, which is of substantially greater value for the company.

The other benefit of SARA is the ability it gives sales personnel to adjust their selling points in real time. For the Axians Portugal Cloud Business Development Manager, voice technology is bringing about a profound change in marketing. “To improve on interactive voice servers in which a voice asks the caller to press buttons to be put in touch with the relevant department – which consumers often find frustrating – the game changer is artificial intelligence, which substantially broadens the opportunity to converse in natural language. Clearly, voice is the way business will be done in future.”

To ensure security and confidentiality of conversations, as well as compliance with the GDPR, Axians uses Microsoft or Amazon cloud services. All conversations are scrubbed from the database after two hours. The SARA platform will soon be presented at company roadshows in several European countries, including France, Belgium, and Austria.